Understanding how our brain works helps my students understand how and why they have the impulses and the reactions they do. Once they are aware of their impulses they can use strategies to self calm and regulate their emotions .This helps the children and adults make sense of what is happening and provides a vocabulary to bring awareness to our emotions and behaviors. We learn how to respond more skillfully with less impulsive reacting.
This lesson expands on a lesson we did last year where I taught that the brain had a guard dog ( amygdala - fight, flight ,freeze response to keep us safe) and a wise owl ( pre frontal cortex and ability to plan, think and respond more thoughtfully). I explained how the guard dog often hijacks the brain and makes us have big reactions.
This lesson uses a house analogy that I modified from How to Teach Your Kids About The Brain . The house has an upstairs and downstairs and incorporates Dan Siegal's idea of 'flipping our lid' from his book The Whole Brain Child.
The Brain House
I began the lesson with a story about the characters in the house. On the upstairs floor lives the 'thinkers' - Wise Owl, Calm Kevin, Solver Sam, Creative Claire and Flexible Fred.
In the downstairs lives the 'feelers'- the guard dog, Action Alex, Scared Sam and Bossy Bill. The feelers keep us safe by looking out for danger and meet our basic needs.
The story includes their roles and how they climb up and down the stairs sending messages back and forth. When the two floors communicate with each other we are at our best.
Flipping our Lid
But Scared Sam can easily panic thinking he sees a serious danger , which alarms Action All who then tells Bossy Bill. They start getting very noisy and quicker than a blink, Bossy Bill gets the body ready for fight, flight or freeze by yelling , ' Downstairs override the upstairs- we are taking over!" The thinkers are ejected, the stairs no longer connected and we have 'flipped our lid!"
When we 'flip our lid', it is hard to think, our heart beats faster, our body wants to move
( flight fight, freeze or hide). This can be a good thing at times. So, we brainstormed times this was a good thing and the downstairs kept us safe.
But sometimes the downstairs brain gets it wrong. It over reacts and we can cry, tantrum, feel scared, mad over small things. We can react without thinking.
(Many made the connection to Glassman an unthinkable!) What can we do?
We can use our mindful and pirate club strategies!
Next, I added the mindful strategy brain pic to the chart allowing us to review a few strategies we have learned and practiced that helped calm us down while soothing the guard dog. These strategies help connect the two floors so we can listen and hear wise owl thinking and problem solve again. We learned how to use that urge to move more mindfully. We walked with a stuffy. I taught them how to count each individual step 1, 2, 3, - 10 and once they reached the 10th step start at 1 again. We practiced walking slowly without dropping the stuffy on our heads. There were some giggles at first as they looked at each other.
We shared how we felt and they finished another page in their mindful journals. Come back later- the children will be creating a brain house movie.
Welcome to my classroom!
I am passionate, a little bit quirky ( some may say a little bit more) and dedicated to serving children with Autism. These young people have touched me deeply and have made me a better teacher & hopefully person. I want to share what I have learned that allows these beautiful children to grow & sometimes thrive in my class.